Community-based participatory research

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"...Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a collaborative approach to research that combines methods of inquiry with community capacity-building strategies to bridge the gap between knowledge produced through research and what is practiced in communities to improve health..."

Community-based participatory research (also known as community-based or "oriented" research, community-wide research, community-involved research, community situated and community-centered research) is a collaborative-partnership research methodology embedded in communities whose goal is to elicit the views and opinions of members by establishing an open dialogue between health researchers and community members. Together they explore ways to get community involvement in the health research in question. Often, in community-based approaches, the relevance of the research topic is identified or verified by community members.

In essence, CBOR research (which is applied to many research methods) is about relationship-building with members of a community as well as building cultural competencies. CBOR includes the need to build trust with community members, and to account for and address a variety of cultural sensitivities that might affect the direction and framing of research questions. For example, to engage Aboriginal groups meaningfully in health studies (Fletcher, 2003), researchers must build a deep rapport with members, create some community presence, be respectful and collaborative, utilize incentives, and employ flexible and adaptive approaches. Oral interviews are preferred to self-completed surveys and questionnaires in CBPR. Mixed methods are also recommended when quantitative data collection is required. Aboriginal communities will want to know about the findings of any research, which should be presented to them at a later date. Aboriginal people are under-represented in epidemiological research because of past failures to engage with Aboriginal communities and due to the use of culturally-inappropriate methods. More qualitative studies should be undertaken in rural and urban Aboriginal communities to identify culturally-congruent public health research methodologies.

The origins of community-based participatory research go back to the development of participatory action research by Kurt Lewin as well as the education movement in Brazil associated with Paulo Freire. In the 1940s, Lewin began to talk about action research to overcome social inequalities. He rejected the idea that to be “objective” as a research you must remove yourself from the community of interest. Later writings by educator Paulo Freire in the 1970s brought to the fore issues of having communities identify their own problems and solutions. More recently, Israel and her colleagues (1998) provided definitions and rationale for community-based participatory research. In their 1998 paper, they perform a synthesis of key principles and examine challenges and facilitating factors in CBPR. What seems clear is that CBPR is a collaborative partnership that involves community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research. Partners contribute their expertise and share responsibilities and ownership to increase understanding of a given phenomenon, and incorporate the knowledge gained with action to enhance the health and well-being of community members.

Key elements of CBPR

According to Israel et al (1998), the following are the key principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR):

  1. recognizes community as a unit of identity
  2. builds on strengths and resources within the community
  3. facilitates collaborative, equitable involvement of all partners in all phases of the research
  4. integrates knowledge and action for mutual bene t of all partners
  5. promotes a co-learning and empowering process that attends to social inequalities
  6. involves a cyclical and iterative process
  7. addresses health from both positive and ecological perspectives
  8. disseminates findings and knowledge gained to all partners
  9. involves a long-term commitment by all partners

See Israel BA, Schulz AJ, Parker EA, Becker AB. Review of community-based research: assessing partnership approaches to improve public health. Annu Rev Public Health. 1998;19:173-202.

Related definitions

"...Community-based experiential learning (CBEL) is an overarching term that encompasses a number of community-based pedagogical practices and a guiding principle that allows us to provide students with opportunities to apply their academic knowledge to real-world issues. The most effective CBEL opportunities provide collaborative learning experiences where all parties take part in the teaching and learning process. — UBC Community-Engaged Learning
"...Community-based action research (CBAR), a process with dual goals of scholarship and social change, has become increasingly appealing to university researchers interested in investigating real-world complex systems characterized by diverse, intergenerational stakeholders, multiple areas of expertise, and the interests and agendas of public, academic, government and not-for-profit organizations. CBAR engages in iterations of learning and change that require community collaboration to define the problem, generate locally-produced knowledge, and devise and implement locally-appropriate actions to create mutually acceptable change. — UBC's Sustain, Acting for Positive Change

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